Our element: Flesh and democracy in Merleau-Ponty

Continental Philosophy Review 45 (2):235-259 (2012)
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Although Merleau-Ponty’s early phenomenology of perception and his essays on art, politics, and language already showed an affinity between the aesthetic phenomena of expression and style and the political and cultural dynamics of society at large, this paper specifically focuses on his late theorizing of the notion of flesh and its relevance to his late understanding of politics and democracy. The emergence of flesh as a concept was contemporary to Merleau-Ponty’s break with Marxism as a philosophical model and with revolutionary dialectics as a political project. It is by showing that such a break was consistently grounded on his theorizing of the being flesh of both the body and of society that this paper shows Merleau-Ponty’s unique contribution to democratic theory and to contemporary political philosophy. In the course of this analysis, it will become clear that in philosophically breaking with the position of a “no that is a yes”—i.e. the model of the revolution, which implies a total negation of the given that becomes a total affirmation of the new order (dictatorship) once in power—he would politically embrace the Weberian “heroic liberalism”—or his “non-communist left”—of parliamentary democracy
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Phenomenology of Perception.Merleau-Ponty, Maurice
Signs.Merleau-Ponty, Maurice
The Visible and the Invisible.Merleau-Ponty, Maurice
Adventures of the Dialectic.Merleau-Ponty, Maurice

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